Real World Camera Comparison, Performance in Well Lit Scenes

I took a bunch of photos with the HTC One alongside a number of other cameras in either a bracket or some other form of mount, and I think they tell an interesting story. If you click on the buttons the thumbnail will change, and the image link will also change for viewing the full res original image. I’d recommend opening the full res images in new tabs and then switching back and forth at 1:1 zoom. The phones I had with me for most of these were the HTC One (obviously), iPhone 5, Lumia 920, HTC Butterfly, and LG Optimus G Pro. I took many many photos with each camera at each location and selected the best ones.

What sticks out at me is how much the subtleties of the HTC One match the HTC Butterfly, it’s obvious how much of the regional tastes of their camera tuners makes its way into the images. Both have a bit too much sharpening for my tastes, and virtually all the smartphones lose a lot of detail to noise reduction but still manage to have surprisingly noisy sky texture. I still can’t shake the impression that HTC has some JPEG artifacts which accentuate the noise in these relatively homogenous regions as well. Apple seems to reflect the kind of tuning I would find myself wanting the most – minimal noise reduction in-camera, encode the noise out, and don’t risk losing any detail. HTC and LG seem to go for more aggressive noise reduction which occasionally leaves that oil painting look, and Nokia surprisingly is somewhere in-between.

HTC One: 1/9600s, ISO 100

In the first Sentinel Peak image, the Lumia 920 is oddly soft at the bottom, the HTC One has a bit of softness at bottom right. Because of the way that OIS works in both these cameras there’s that chance that the extreme field angles will have some softness if the camera is shifted during capture while OIS is compensating.

HTC One: 1/3800s, ISO 109

In the second Sentinel Peak image with the saguaro cactus, it’s interesting to pay attention to the detail in the foliage of the palo verde tree. The Optimus G and Butterfly turn most of the tree into a blurry homogenous mess, the Lumia 920 has a bit of an oil painting look as well, and the HTC One does pretty well given its lower resolution, though still looks a bit too sharpened for me.

In this next shot I exposed for the shadowed Virgin Mary figurine using tap to focus / capture on all the cameras. I find that the One excels in situations like this which are a challenge because of very bright and very dark regions next to each other. There’s no HDR used here.

HTC One: 1/320s, ISO 100

What sticks out about the HTC One to me is what I get from looking EXIF, which is why I pulled that data out for each image in its comparison. Because there’s no way to manually set exposure on any smartphone right now (because nobody is willing to treat smartphone users like adults, apparently), I wind up using auto mode and looking back at what each camera selected in each setting. In the daytime images, what sticks out is that the exposure time is incredibly short, or fast. The result is that the One is incredible at stopping motion outdoors, and this seems to have been HTC’s big priority with tuning the One, rather than pushing noise down even further by going perhaps to ISO 50 like we see the iPhone and LG Optimus G Pro do, if the ST CMOS in the One even supports it.

Still Camera Analysis The Real Test: Low Light Performance of the HTC One
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  • RichPaterno - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    LOL! My thoughts exactly. Samsung makes some of the butt UGLIEST phones on the market for sure. I went with the HTC one x instead of the GS3 last year for three reasons:

    1. the aesthetics. the samsung is plain and simple an ugly phone. i'd put it in a case just so i can remain in denial as to what it looks like
    2. the annoying bluish tint on the samsung display
    3. the oh so cheap and plasticky feel

    and I will buy the HTC One over the GS4 this year for the very same reasons...
    Reply
  • Toss3 - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Pretty ironic considering the blue tint of the display of the HTC One. Reply
  • harshilshah - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    So basically the One sucks because it's 0.3" smaller than the S4, whose size suddenly has become your new basic standard for size, and because your phone choices are so bad in design that the screen is the only part worth looking at? Reply
  • hartwicklax22 - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    you dont get a gift and walk around with it day after day week after week month after month all year like it is part of your body with the wrapping paper on do you ??!! .... i didnt think so, yes "trivial" but in response to your lame analogy. I like the rest of your post however. Reply
  • therealjoshhamilton - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    I won't say it's just a wrapper, it would be like saying the outside of a car is "just" a wrapper. Reply
  • Thud2 - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    Hurrumph. Dagnab newfangled fancy lunimum phones. Mine BENDS! Like a willow! Who needs quality! My Pinto gets me to work fine. Reply
  • sAiyAnstAr - Wednesday, May 01, 2013 - link

    My HTC Sensation has an Aluminium case and Gorilla Glass (which the One has too). I have dropped it many times on tile and concrete floors both back and face down. No cracks on the screen, no scratches or dents on the case. Reply
  • Scottneon - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    This has to be the most in-depth,thorough review I have ever read. I appreciate all your attention to detail in explaining how things work and perform. I was planning on getting this phone and after reading this review I'm chomping at the bit to get my hands on it. Thank you for all your hard work Reply
  • sherlockwing - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Could you do a Airplane mode H.264 Video playback battery test for Smartphone reviews? A lot of people including me use their large(4.5"+) smartphone to watch videos during long flights. Reply
  • danbob999 - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    I agree the current battery benchmarks are not enough. A white background will favor LCD, and black background will favor AMOLED phones.
    I'd rather have a benchmark were all phones sit idle, display turned off, until they run out of juice. With a few emails getting in of course.
    Reply

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